My Favorite Skin Care Ingredient

In the past few weeks, several people have asked me about what lotion I use. My answer to them is quite simple: none. I used to slather on creams after getting out of the shower, but I found that my skin was always dry. This didn’t seem right to me, so several years ago I quit cold turkey. After a while, my skin broke free from the lotion addiction and now I rarely, if ever, have dry, flaky skin.

On the rare occasions that Mack, Evelyn or I are suffering from dry skin, I rub in a little almond or extra virgin olive oil. When we brought the babies home from the hospital they both had typical newborn dryness. A little bit of olive oil was all it took to provide relief for their tiny bodies. Yes, just one simple household ingredient is all you need! A thin coating is absorbed quickly, contains no fragrance, and costs less than the goop you get from Jergens.

Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on your favorite lotion? Its actually kinda scary. Here’s the list of ingredients in Johnson’s Baby Lotion, a presumably benign product designed for the littlest bodies:

Water, Isopropyl Palmitate, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Mineral Oil, Oleic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Benzyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Methylparaben, Fragrance, Carbomer, Propylparaben, Xanthan Gum, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Red 33.

Perhaps my biggest concerns with the above list are the parabens. In my opinion, parabens (methylparaben, proplyparaben, etc) are beyond scary and I won’t let any product with them in my house. High levels of parabens have been detected in breast tumors, with one British study finding high concentrations of parabens in 18 out of 20 samples of breast tumors. Animal experiments show that parabens demonstrate weak estrogenic activity. Further, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB rays, leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. Crazy that something we’re putting on our skin is acutally making our skin worse!

I also take issue with the vague inclusion of “fragrance” on the list of ingredients. As I have written about before, fragrances are among the top five allergens in the world and are known to trigger asthma attacks. Fragrances often contain ingredients suspected of neurotoxicity and known hormone disruptors. Many lotions and shampoos that list “fragrance” on their ingredient list actually contain phthalates, which may cause reproductive disorders. The government does not regulate artificial fragrances and does not require manufacturers to disclose what ingredients make up any given fragrance. Why cover your body with a mysterious mix of chemicals and additives???

Some other issues I have with the above ingredient list:
Benzyl Alcohol: used as a general solvent for inks, paints, lacquers and epoxy resin coatings. Also used as a photographic developer.
Magnesium Aluminum Silicate: Developmental, brain, nervous system, reproduction and fertility effects.
Cetyl Alcohol: End product from petroleum industry. Also used as a lubricant in machinery.
Dimethicone: Suspected to be an environmental toxin and to be persistent or bioaccumulative. Expected to be toxic or harmful to organs.

My face gets the same gentle treatment as the rest of my body. I have problem prone skin, but once I cut out conventional products I noticed a real improvement. Check out my daily facial routine here. As far as SPF, I do use Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer on my face every morning. It is paraben-free and fragrance-free. At night, I use a mixture of olive, jojoba, and castor oils.

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Written by Maureen

More posts by: Maureen

8 Comments for this entry

  1. Mitzi says:

    I have used organic olive oil for years as a makeup remover and moisturizer. It is wonderful.

  2. Amy Badler says:

    Poor Ben has been getting daily olive oil treatments. What do you do about suntan lotion?

  3. HomemadeMother says:

    Amy, I use Cetaphil with SPF. It is fragrance-free and paraben-free.

    So glad to hear you're using olilve oil with Ben. Such a good mommy!

  4. melissa says:

    any suggestions for bathing toddlers? shampoos and conditioners as well….

    • Maureen Smithe says:

      I use olive or almond oil on my toddlers – it is great for their skin.

      I actually don’t shampoo or condition the kids fine hair. A good scrub with water seems to keep it clean and healthy.

  5. Amber says:

    With your permission, I would like to give a link to this article on my blog? I am writing an article about phtalates and parabens in baby care products.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Baking Soda wash and Vinegar rinse for hair (no shampoo or conditioner).
    Honey for a face wash (sometimes with a bit of baking soda in it).
    Oatmeal in a bath.
    Coconut oil for body lotion.

  7. Coconut oil for sure. I just made the switch and am loving it for my face.

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